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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Makes First-Ever Visit to Ukraine

Saturday, September 27, 2014
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Office of Public Affairs, 202-482-4883

Fulfills Request of President Obama to Meet with Senior Ukraine Officials and Push for Needed Reforms to Improve Business Climate

Today Secretary Pritzker completed her visit to Ukraine, where she met with key government officials, including President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin, and business leaders to discuss the Administration's commitment to the country. As America's chief commercial diplomat, the Secretary's trip focused on the challenges facing American companies in Ukraine and what they need to do to implement the necessary reforms to improve the business climate, attract private capital, expand opportunity, and strengthen the economy, both now and in the future. Her message to leaders in the country was clear: sustainable economic growth is the gateway to long-term political stability for the people of Ukraine, and the United States is here to help.

Secretary Pritzker continues her trip with stops in Poland and Turkey with members of the President’s Export Council (PEC). In both countries, she will meet with senior government officials and with American companies seeking greater and deeper access to their markets. The following is a statement from Secretary Pritzker during a news conference upon conclusion of her visit to Ukraine.

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Ambassador Pyatt – you are doing a terrific job representing the United States in Ukraine at this pivotal moment.

This morning I was very moved to walk on the Maidan and see what sacrifice the people of Ukraine are prepared to make to achieve their democratic future. Since the outset of the current crisis, President Obama has been clear that Russia must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including by ending its occupation of Crimea and withdrawing all of its military forces from inside Ukraine.

President Putin’s actions are hurting both the Russian and Ukrainian economies. President Obama and I have been very focused on this crisis for many months – and we will continue to be. During that time, we have witnessed the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people – from the Maidan to the Donbas – and of Ukraine’s new leadership in Kyiv.

The United States has a stake in helping Ukraine build an independent, stable and prosperous country that benefits all its citizens, which is why President Obama asked me to lead a U.S. government delegation to Kyiv.

We are here to learn more about the particular challenges facing Ukraine’s economy and to convey our thoughts about how to stabilize Ukraine’s financial situation, improve the business climate here, and develop the conditions for future growth.

We have had productive discussions with President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. We also met with a number of dynamic, young Ukrainian entrepreneurs and representatives of American companies currently in the market, visited the oldest Jewish Synagogue in Kyiv, toured Babi Yar and walked the Maidan with Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

It has been a remarkable visit. We have been encouraged by what we have all seen and learned, but the fact is that Ukraine faces significant economic challenges that its leaders are working to:

  • Stabilize the financial system;
  • Fight corruption;
  • Build a more efficient and accountable bureaucracy;
  • Balance the books;
  • Incentivize innovation;
  • Reform the energy sector; and,
  • Allow agriculture and industries with strong potential to maximize their productivity.

These steps are going to be hard, but they can change the future of your country. In particular, seeing decisive action on anti-corruption now is important. We certainly hope to see the anti-corruption legislation that is currently in the Parliament passed before the coming election. The business community inside and outside Ukraine are watching to see if this can get passed now. Passing this legislation is an important signal that the commitment to reform is real.

As someone who spent 27 years in the private sector, I understand the conditions that are required for someone to start a business or make an investment – and I believe that if Ukraine succeeds in implementing these reforms, this market could present phenomenal business opportunities.

President Poroshenko’s Strategy 2020, which he unveiled this week, presents an ambitious vision of what Ukraine’s economy can be. But to achieve these goals, it is essential that Ukraine take steps now.

Implementing that vision could build an economy that supports broad based and sustainable prosperity for all Ukraine’s citizens. As conditions here improve, the U.S. Department of Commerce can help showcase the historic investment opportunities that these changes could represent and bring the American private sector to this market.

On a more personal note, this is my first-ever visit to Ukraine. I am the great-granddaughter of Nicholas Pritzker who emigrated from Ukraine to the United States 133 years ago in search of prosperity and security. I shared the story of my family with President Poroshenko.

My family has been blessed to live in a country – the United States -- that allowed us to start businesses and fulfill our dreams.

I know that if Ukraine – a country with great human capital -- follows through on these reforms, this economy will present opportunities for Ukrainians to fulfill their dreams right here at home. The United States is committed to building deeper commercial ties between our nations and to building a stronger Ukrainian economy.